Host sensing and signal transduction during Toxoplasma stage conversion

Leonardo Augusto, Ronald C. Wek, William J. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii infects nucleated cells in virtually all warm-blooded vertebrates, including one-third of the human population. While immunocompetent hosts do not typically show symptoms of acute infection, parasites are retained in latent tissue cysts that can be reactivated upon immune suppression, potentially damaging key organ systems. Toxoplasma has a multistage life cycle that is intimately linked to environmental stresses and host signals. As this protozoan pathogen is transmitted between multiple hosts and tissues, it evaluates these external signals to appropriately differentiate into distinct life cycle stages, such as the transition from its replicative stage (tachyzoite) to the latent stage (bradyzoite) that persists as tissue cysts. Additionally, in the gut of its definitive host, felines, Toxoplasma converts into gametocytes that produce infectious oocysts (sporozoites) that are expelled into the environment. In this review, we highlight recent advances that have illuminated the interfaces between Toxoplasma and host and how these interactions control parasite stage conversion. Mechanisms underlying these stage transitions are important targets for therapeutic intervention aimed at thwarting parasite transmission and pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)839-848
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Microbiology
Volume115
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Toxoplasma
  • bradyzoites
  • differentiation
  • gene regulation
  • host-pathogen interactions
  • latency
  • parasites
  • stress
  • tachyzoites
  • translational control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology

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